Sweet, Sweet Sunday

What’s Next?

As much as I hate it, and as much as my ADHD adult mind would love to wander off on yet some other tempting tangent or two, especially during this holiday season of overeating and overcooking and overbaking…

We’re still faced with the fact that my husband has just been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and that we both need to start eating better.

This has actually become a top priority, if not THE top priority, in our lives right now.

And I have made planning our meals around the Raw Foods Pyramid my plan on attack.

Mainly I am doing this so that I won’t have to cook…no, wait…that’s so not true…

But it is true that the real reason I use huge recyclable cloth bags when shopping is so that I can safely cram more into each bag and, as a result, make fewer trips from my car into the house…not to save the environment.

My pursuit of a “raw foods diet” so far has involved learning to eat more unprocessed, organic, and uncooked foods….foods such as vegetables, nuts, seeds, fruits, sprouted grains, and beans—none of which can have been heated above a certain temperature, usually somewhere between 104 and 118 degrees.

I have also been becoming more aware of which foods have been refined, pasteurized, homogenized, or produced with the use of synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, industrial solvents, or chemical food additives.

I have been learning about the raw foods dfiet by starting at the base of the Pyramid—those low calorie, nutrient dense foods that we should probably all eat more of in the first place and slowly working my way to the higher-calorie, less nutritious foods at the top of the pyramid, those foods that we should eat very little of, if any at all.

The three bottom tiers of the Raw Foods pyramid—water, leafy greens, and fruits and vegetables—are grouped together in the one category called “Production Foods.”

Let’s take a look at what we’ve learned so far…

Bibliophiles, Sewing a Straight Seam

Books, Books, Books Galore

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As far as your friends and family that absolutely can’t put a book down and would much rather be holding a leather bound book than a brand new cell phone or Ipad, here are some great sources for book suggestions as to which book to buy for what person…

Blogs can be excellent sources of information. A few blogs about books are Book RiotBustle BooksOmnivoraciousThe Millions, and The New York Review of Books.

Book clubs can also be useful as you embrace a literary lifestyle. Four of the better known book clubs are DoubleDayOprahGoodreads, and Book of the Month.

Book lists can also be found with reviews on sites like Book List OnlineList ChallengesGoodreadsBook RiotNew York Public Library, and Reading Group Choices.

Book reviews can also be read on pages with Book Challenges. Several challenges that I have been following this year are…

All About Austen…Read or watch anything inspired by Jane Austen.

Back to the Classics…Discover and enjoy classic books you might not have tried, or just never got around to reading.

Christian Reading Challenge.

Foodies Read…”Do you read books about food? There are books about food in so many different genres…

  • Cozy mysteries set in bakeries…
  • Romance books set in tea shops..
  • Nonfiction books about the history of ingredients…
  • Cookbooks
  • Memoirs from chefs or waiters or people who just love to eat…

Full House Reading Challenge ...Complete the Bingo card of challenges with fiction or non-fiction books

Netflix and Books Challenge. This is going to be a yearly challenge focused on watching television shows we’ve been wanting to get to (both new and old), and reading books we’ve been wanting to read that match some fun challenge prompts

Reading Assignment Challenge... Commit to reading 1, 2, 3 or 4 books a month and make a list of the specific books you will read each month.

Share-a-Tea Reading Challenge...This challenge is about QUALITY and not quantity. It’s not about reading fifty books or even twelve books. This is an anti-rush reading challenge. Enjoy where you are in a book, and, engage fully in it. Live in the book.

Victorian Reading Challenge…More than any other time in modern history, the Victorian Age saw the most change to European and American societies. Many agrarian, rural communities transitioned to urban centers of industry. Men and women began to talk about and take steps toward redefining their traditional roles. Theories about God, the origin of man, and the practice of religion began to be publicly put forth, challenged, refuted, or solidified. The Victorian Age saw a great revolution in the western world and it’s a topic that fascinates me endlessly.  

Pinterest Boards may also prove to be a great asset a few worth noting are

  • Book Community Board
  • Goodreads
  • Penguin Random House Boards
  • Random House Official Pinterest Board

Websites can obviously give you reviews, reading guides, interviews with authors, and so forth. A few websites worth investing your time in are…

 

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

More Gift Ideas—Coffee Makers

 It has been found that coffee has health benefits, such as increased cardiovascular function, a decreased risk of basal cell carcinoma, and protection against liver disease…and many people like me simply cannot function without a freshly brewed pot of coffee close at hand.But recently my coffee machine stopped working and had to be replaced.

Buying a new coffee machine was a really big decision at our house, and here are the factors that I considered while comparing shopping options and trying to make sure that I would buy a coffee maker that I absolutely love.

1.  Cleaning…Think about how easy it will be to clean, most likely meaning something that can go in the dishwasher.

2.  Cost…Coffee makers involve long-term costs, not only a one-time initial expense.

Single-serving machines-such as the Nespresso Inissia, Ninja Coffee Bar Single-Serve System, and Keurig-require constantly buying coffee pods and capsules which can run anywhere from $5 to $7 a package.

Drip machines require constantly buying new filters and grounds or beans.

3.  Effectiveness…Make sure that you buy a machine that can brew at high heat. Most top-of-the-line machines will list their brewing temps on the box or online.

4.  Material…Decide what kind of carafe you want-glass or stainless steel. Glass pots let you see and smell the coffee as it is brewing. A glass pot keeps warm for about 20 minutes. A thermal, stainless pot will keep coffee warm for up to an hour, but will have to be cleaned by hand.

5.  Size…Take stock of how much you coffee you actually drink. If you barely go through a cup a day, buy a single-serving machine. If you drink coffee to keep you functioning all day long, buy the biggest pot available.

Making Dinner Plans

More Gift Ideas—Organic Food Subscription Boxes

 

Chamomile; German Chamomile; Hungarian Chamomile; Camomile; Matricaria recutita; Chamomilla recutita; Matricaria chamomilla

While we’re on the subject of healthy snacks, I thought that this would be a good time to share this list of twenty food subscription boxes again…

1.  Blue Apron

  • Who:  People who want to experiment with fun and creative recipes, avoid grocery shopping, and adventurous chefs who enjoy trying new ingredients.
  • What:  Fresh ingredients with seasonal recipes that are never repeated during the year.
  • How much: Prices start at $59.94/week (for a 2 person, 3 meals a week plan) and $69.92/week (for a 4 person, 2 meals a week plan)

2.  Batch

  • Who: People who enjoy Southern hospitality and food
  • What:  limited-edition, themed collection of handmade goods from Southern makers from Nashville, Memphis, Austin, and Charleston
  • How Much:  Batch’s holiday subscription box ships twice: February and May.Cost: Two-month subscription boxes cost $98 for standard or $198 for deluxe boxes. Their one-off, non-subscription boxes make fantastic gifts, too, and run from $39 to $119 a box.

3.  Carnivore Club

  • Who:  discerning carnivores
  • What:  Each month members receive an impressive faux-wood box filled with four to six of the very best artisanal curated cured meat,  featuring artisans from around the world. Each month’s box is themed around one producer specializing in a particular style of cured meats—such as French Charcuterie, Italian Salumi, Spanish Chorizo, South African Biltong and Artisanal Jerky.
  • How much:  Carnivore Club has a range of delivery options including monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly.Cost: $50/month.

4.  Cocoa Runners

  • Who:  Chocolate connoisseurs
  • What:   A box of four different full-size chocolate bars, made from high-quality artisanal chocolate from around the world
  • How much:  $30/month

5.  Degustabox

  • Who:  adventuresome and trendy Foodstirs
  • What:  11-15 full-size food items that are new to the market.
  • How much: Regularly $19.99, but use coupon code DEGUSTA10 to get your first box for $9.99.

6.  Farm to People

  • Who:  people who are addicts to shopping at a farmer’s market.
  • What:  three to four products for “The Casual Foodie” box, or five to eight for “The Food Critic”…small-batch, artisanal goodies made with sustainable ingredients straight from farms across America… no GMOs and nothing artificial, ever.
  • How much:  $30/month for “The Casual Foodie” or $50/month for “The Food Critic”

7.  Graze


  • Who:  people looking for healthy, properly portioned, and nutritious snacks
  • What:  subscriber’s choice of eight of the 100 available choices of snacks…
  • How much: $11.99 for 8 snacks per box

8.  HelloFresh

  • Who: people who enjoy cooking healthy home-cooked meals
  • What:  meal subscription boxes that deliver fresh, nutritious, pre-portioned ingredients—including meat, fish, produce, and grains—along with chef-inspired recipe cards
  • How much:  offers options 3, 4 or 5 meals per week for 2 or for 4 people for basically $10-11.50/per person per meal

9.  Healthy Surprise

  • Who: people on a “clean eating” or paleo diet
  • What: a selection of all natural, 100% guilt-free, gluten-free, GMO, soy, corn, wheat, and gluten-free treats
  • How much:  starts  at $50/box for 15 full size snacks.

10.  Love with Food Tasting Box

  • Who: healthy snackers who like to “give back”
  • What:  12 to 15 natural and organic gluten-free and celiac-safe snacks and sweets…no trans fats, no hydrogenated oils, no artificial flavors/colors, and no high-fructose corn syrup
  • How much:  $10/box for 8 snacks…plus for every box Love With Food sends out, two meals are donated to a food bank in America.

11.  Mantry.

  • Who: men who like trying new snacks, liquors, prepared sauces, and mixes made in America.
  • What:  Branded, lidded wooden crates containing six full-size, non-perishable, stereotypically male-marketed artisan dude-friendly food products such as snacks, liquor, prepared sauces, or flavor enhancers…each box has a particular theme…past themes have included Bacon Nation, Tailgate Tour and Bourbon BBQ.
  • How much:  Each box costs $75.

12.  Nature Box

  • Who:  snackers who want to choose exactly what snacks go in their pack
  • What: a choice of 100+ super-healthy, super-delicious snacks, from chocolate hazelnut granola to sriracha rice crackers
  • How much:  $20 for 5 full-sized snack bags

13.  Orange Glad

  • Who:  people with a taste for exotic treats
  • What:  a gourmet dessert subscription box featuring tasty delights like Russian tea cakes and chocolate almond macaroons
  • How much: $20-$22/month depending on subscription length

14.  Peach Dish

  • Who:  people whose goal is to cook dinner more often and enjoy trying new recipes
  • What:  a meal kit delivery service offering Southern-infused seasonally inspired recipes to cook at home. Each kit includes all the ingredients along with a detailed, step-by-step instruction card needed to prepare for two dinner of the eight different meals offered each week (four meat/fish and four vegetarian). PeachDish also has a separate store on its website with desserts, jams, spice blends, flavored salts, meats, cookbooks, and more.
  • How much:  Prices vary based on how many servings you order. The minimum order is $50, which is the standard box that includes two meals each for two individuals, breaking down to $12.50 per person.

15.  Plated

  • Who:  people who don’t have the time or the energy to plan what’s for dinner, go to the grocery store, and get everything you need for the week
  • What:  all of the ingredients — except for salt, pepper, olive or vegetable oil, and eggs — and step-by-step cooking instructions printed on recipe cards for your choice of seven different meat, seafood, and vegetarian dinners
  • How much:  $48/box…all of the meal kits serve two people at $12 per person. You can choose anywhere from two to seven dinners per week. You can also upgrade any dinner to a Chef’s Table dinner, which includes specialty cuts of meat and seafood, for additional $2 to $18 per person, per dinner…and add dessert to the box for $4 per person, per dessert. The most popular kit is three dinners a week for $72.

16.  Treatsie

  1. Who:  chocolate lovers and those with a sweet tooth
  2. What:  a box of up to $25 worth of delicious artisan sweets—cookies and chocolate to candies and caramel—from three different candy makers each month—indie candy labels, small batch artisanal sweets, and other under-the-radar goodness. You can also choose a subscription that only sends candy bars.
  3. How much:  $20 per month

17.  Try The World

  • Who:  world travelers with foreign tastes
  • What:  tasty treats from other countries, such as cookies from Paris and turkish delights from Turkey
  • How much:  $29-$39 per box

18.  Turntable Kitchen

  • Who. hostesses that would like to find rising artists, enjoy an original menu, get to know unique ingredients, and wow their friends with a playlist of the best new music each month.
  • What:  Pairings Box with perfectly coordinated soundtrack and menu—includes  three seasonal recipes, one or two dried ingredients, a digital mixtape, and a limited-edition vinyl record.
  • How much:  $25/month

19.  Vegan Cuts

  • Who:  vegans and other people interested in finding new gluten-free snacks
  • What:  10 or more vegan-certified snacks (from soda to kale chips
  • How much:  $20 per month

20. Vegin’ Out

  • Who:  vegetarians and vegans interested in having convenient, completely pre-made, customizable meals
  • What:  3 vegetarian vegan entrees, 4 vegetarian vegan side dishes, 1 vegetarian vegan soup, and 5 vegan cookies
  • How much: $128-$170 depending on location
Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Creative Gifts for Creative Minds

We all have creative people in our lives—those “avid do-it-yourselfers who love the challenge of changing “cheap:” dollar store and thrift shop finds into brilliant pieces of art—the wanna be Joanna Gaines…

So what are non-creative people like me supposed to get a creative idea as to what to get these people when we can’t even thread a needle and have no idea what a Cricuit even is.

One idea is help replenish their “stash” by giving them those things that they simply  must ALWAYS have on hand…as if they were milk, butter, and eggs…

Two things that all crafters always need and can use in abundance are…

Fabric,,,need I say more?

Paint...It may seem silly to be giving creative people something as simple as paint for Christmas, but you wouldn’t think twice about giving quality makeup to a true diva, right?

After all, creative people absolutely LOVE paint…Be careful if you go to a true crafter’s house not to be very still for an extended amount of time…If you do, you might find yourself painted too…and definitely don’t go to sleep on their sofas.

  • Acrylic Craft Paint…Acrylic craft paint, especially white, only costs about fifty cents a bottle and comes in handy for lots of small paint projects, such as small little wooden pieces to use as embellishments or canvas art…and true crafters can always use help replenishing or adding to their stock of colors! It
  • Spray Paint…Spray paint can change things dramatically, and add new life to worn-out items with the press of a button.

Scrapbook/Decorative Paper…Most, if not all, crafters absolutely LOVE pretty scrapbook paper…Scrapbook paper can be the one of the cheapest and easiest ways for creative people to add a fresh look to their homes—by doing such things as putting paper in frames and changing out the framed paper for every season and occasion in order to  change the whole look of a room with just a few cents worth of paper.

A second line of thought as far as to gifts for crafters would be gifts that they receive regularly throughout the year—magazine subscriptions and subscription boxes.

Subscription Boxes

Subscription  boxes—such as CrateJoy, DarbySmart, KiwiCrate, and Makers Kit— deliver crafting supplies directly to your favorite crafter’s doorstep every month.

Subscription boxes are a great way to treat the crafters in your life with a tangible monthly reminder of how much you love them all throughout the year.

Subscription boxes are available for all sorts of crafters—including scrapbooking, calligraphy, knitting, drawing, and painting.

Let’s take a look at a few of the most popolar subscription boxes out there…

1.Adults and Crafts Crate

  • What it costs…about $30 per month
  • What it contains……everything you need—including materials, tools, and instructions—to do projects such as making a terrarium,  creating an autumn wreath, and building a wine caddy

2. Boho Berry Box

  • What it costs…$25 per mont
  • What you get…a tracker, planner stickers, and other products—such as stickers, stationery, pens, pencils, markers, and other goodies—from creative journaling brands

3.Chroma Club

  • What it costs…$8 a month
  • What you get…one coloring book each month containing a collection of art from indie artists, as well as biographical information on each one

4. Cloth & Paper

  • What it costs…three options available…$18 per month for pen subscription, 38 per month for stationery, 48 for both
  • What you get…5-8 pieces of stationery and/or 4-6 pens or pencils depending on which box you choose

5. Darn Good Yarn of the Month

  • What it costs…$10
  • What you get…three options available—fabric, beads, and yarn

6. Foodstirs

  • What it costs…about $25 a month
  • What you get…organic cake and cookie mixes, chemical-free decorations, and all the supplies and kid-friendly instructions you need to finish the project

7. .Grow and Make

  • What it costs…$30 per month
  • What you get…materials to finish one project per month in the following categories—Bath and Body, Beverages, Candles, Culinary, and Gardening 

8. Home Made Luxe

  • What is costs…$40 per month
  • What you get…all the essential materials to create a “gorgeous, Pinterest-worthy” home decor project with written and video instructions, so you’ll know exactly how to make them

9. Homegrown Collective

  • What it costs: $25 per month
  • What you get…all the materials and tools you need to make 3 to 4 projects designed to replace your toxic bath, beauty, home, and kitchen items with all-natural and organic alternatives.

10. Knir Crate

  • What it costs…$20 to $35 per month depending on which kit you choose
  • What you get…four different choices available—knit crate, sock crate, artisan crate, sock artisan crate, and a colloboration

 11.Knit Wise

  • What you get…yarn, needles, step-by-step instructions and anything else you might need to complete various projects—such as coasters and wall hangings
  • What it cost…$29

12. New Hobby Box

What it costs…$35 a month

What you get…eleven options available…

  1. Book Binding
  2. Eco Printing
  3. Electronics
  4. Lock Picking
  5. Macrame
  6. Paper Making
  7. Pickling
  8. Pyrograhy
  9. Scrimshaw
  10. Tasseograhy
  11. Weaving

12. Pipsticks

  • What it costs…$14.95 a month
  • What you get…15+ sheets of stickers, a postcard, a Sticker Club Newsletter, and other great stuff

13. Quilter’s Candy Box

  • What it costs…$50 per month
  • What you get…various fabrics and other necessities—along with other surprise goodies like chocolate, candies, mugs, tote bags, and more

14. Quilty Boxts…

  • What it costs…three options available, ranging from $24 to $48
  • What you get…two yards of fabric, a small spool of thread, one or two notions and tools, and Bundles of Inspiration mini-magazine complete with a showcase on the featured artist, articles and tips, and three patterns (full sized pattern from our featured artist, a mini pattern, and an English paper piecing pattern).

15. Sew Sampler Quilting Subscription Box

  • What it costs…$25 per month
  • What you get… at least five specially chosen items—such as fabric, notions, patterns, thread—always totaling more than your monthly cost

16. SketchBox

  • What it costs…$25-$35 per month
  • What you get…four to six art supplies—such as Copic markers, Krink paint markers, Pan pastels, Caran d’Ache Luminance Colored Pencils, Zig Brush Pens, Van Gogh watercolors, Gum Erasers—as well as an inspirational piece of art made with the materials in the box by our featured artist

17. Smart Art

  • What it costs: $49.95 a month
  • What you get…six full-sized art supplies, a unique project in 6 simple steps, and tutorials created by your favorite YouTube artists

Dropping the Kids Off

How to Help Your Children Experience Christmas All Year Long

Never thought that I would be nearly fifty chasing a three year old 24/7…but life happens…

And so many of us are raising, or even adopting, our own grandchildren these days…(so not getting on my soapbox about different generations right now)…
But there are several advantages of spending lots and lots of time with your grandchildren.

1. Assurance–-Knowing that your child is safe and well taken care of while your kids, aka their parents, are at work or school is so important…do you really want to entrust the maintenance and upkeep of your most precious investments with just anybody who puts up a sign and calls themselves a daycare center…

2. Example—You have a unique position to serve as a role model for your grandkids that they might not otherwise get. they watch how you go through the day and how you interact with other people. You set the precedent for how they will treat their own kids…and they will treat their own kids…and they will treat their own kids…hopefully producing generation after generation of people who make a positive difference in the lives ariund them.

3. Relationship–Having the privilege of getting to spend both quantity time and quality time with your grandchildren is a privilege that many grandparents never get. my husband was active duty military when my kids were little…and we never lived closer than eight hours from our own parents.

4. Trust—Develop a relationship that allows you to be that You are that one person, or often one of the very few people that a child can tell or count on if there is a challenge that she is at first unwilling to approach with a parent. spending quality time and quantity time with your grandchildren teaches intimacy, trust, and commitment.

5. Success...Finally, active grandarenting gives you unstructured time to build the foundation for academics and real life that lie ahead. These early years can create a love of learning in your child and give him the confidence to try new things.
Instilling a love of reading in your kids at a young age doesn’t always have to mean cracking a book. If you can find a children’s magazine that is the right fit for your child, it can be the ticket that turns your child into an enthusiastic reader.

 

 

Anyway, enough of my rambling on about being a full-time grandmother-“mother”…

Let’s look at some ideas as far as what to get them for Christmas, without encouraging their screen time any more than it already is…

 

Surrounding your kids with a variety of reading material and exposing them to different types of writing—fiction and nonfiction, poems and recipes—can make reading so much more exciting.

Book experts and bloggers from around the world agree that magazines can inspire a love of art, crafts, nature, reading, writing, comics, puzzles, cooking, and hands-on experiments.

If you too remember the thrill of your very own magazine arriving in the mail with your name on it,here are a few options to spurn a whole new generation of readers.

 
1.  Babybug Magazine..

  • Cost…9 Issues: $33.95
  • Contents…brightly illustrated action rhymes, Mother Goose and other traditional nursery rhymes, basic concepts, and simple stories that are perfect for parents and grandparents to read aloud…featuring a variety of art styles and media, including paint, watercolors, woodblock prints, tapestry, collages, and pastels.
  • Geared towards…children ages 6 months to 3 years
  • Published…9 times a year, every month except for combined May/June, July/August, and November/December issues
  • Publisher…The Cricket Magazine Group
  • Started…1995

 
2.  Chirp Magazine..

  • Cost…$34.95
  • Contents…colorful pages, stories, puzzles, silly jokes, engaging stories, crafts, recipes,  and early-learning activities
  • Geared towards...3- to 6-year-olds
  • Published…10 issues per year
  • Publisher…Owl Media, Canada
  • Started…1997

3.  Click

  • Cost…$36.95
  • Content…takes children on a journey of discovery about the world around them…science, art, nature, and environmental issues…one intriguing topic at at time
  • Geared towards...3-6 years
  • Published…9 issues per year
  • Publisher…Cricket Media


4.  Clubhouse Jr.

  • Cost...$23.99
  • Content…faith-filled fun and biblical values for young children
  • Geared towards...3-7 years
  • Published…12 issues per year
  • Publisher…Focus on the Family

5.  Disney Junior

  • Cost…$18.00
  • Content…magical storytelling and playful activities, featuring the best-loved Disney characters. From the delights of Mickey Mouse, Sofia the First, Doc McStuffins, and the swashbuckling adventures of Jake
  • Geared toward…ages 2 – 7
  • Published…six times per year
  • Publisher…Disney Magazines

6.  Family Fun Magazine.

  • Cost…$10.99
  • Content…ideas for family cooking, vacations, creativity, traveling, parties, holidays, crafts, fun, and much more to get the whole family interacting
  • Geared toward…parents with kids from the ages of 3 to 12
  • Published…monthly
  • Publisher…Meredith Corporation
  • Started…1991

7.  Fun To Learn Friends

  • Cost…$19.97
  • Content…join characters such as Curious George, PAW Patrol, Clifford, and Peppa Pig in activities designed to make learning fun, while helping to develop key skills in math, reading and creativity…each issue includes a 12 page workbook to encourage and develop early learning skills
  • Geared toward…age 2 – 7yrs
  • Published…six times per year
  • Publisher…Redan Publishing


8.  Highlights High Five

  • Cost…$39.96
  • Content…free online audio stories, matching games and other puzzles, easy recipes and crafts, action rhymes, stories from other lands and cultures to expand children’s empathy
  • Geared toward…ages 2 to 6
  • Publisher…Highlights for Children, Inc.
  • Started…2007

CRAFTS

Art should also play a role in the development of your kids. There are many benefits For children being given the opportumity to do arts and crafts during their formative years. these include self-confidence and problem solving ability,

Taking time to be creative at an early age will help them during their actual school years and later in their careers.

In the business world, these children will be be valuable employees who are able to embrace diversity, envision  innovative and valuable ideas and solutions to a problem, take risks and feel comfortable with the outcome and any mistakes, see other points of view, and think outside of the box.

Most importantly, these kids will never losing touch with the creative child inside of them.

Here are some of the best blogs that I have found that we, as parents and teachers, can use to gather ideas and inspiration to encourage creativity in our children.

1.  Art Bar Blog… This blog is written by a former graphic designer who now teaches art from her home in Connecticut.

She believes that providing a space, time, a table, a willing parent, and art materials for children to create, explore, invent, and tinker develops their ability to flourish into a lifelong creative thinker.

Her art projects have been featured in publications, such as Real Simple.


2.  Art for Kids and Robots…Jeanette Nyberg, author of Tangle Art & Drawing Games for Kids, finds both art and kids to be creative, interesting, and fun. She also believes that art is not fostered nearly enough in American public schools and offers art projects for kids on her blog to hopefully fill in that gap.


3.  Elise Gets Crafty…Elise Blaha Cripe, author of the Get to Work Book, started a blog in 2005 and began sharing craft projects and tutorials. In 2008, she opened her first online shop, where she has made and sold everything from letterpress prints to wooden plant stands.
Fun at Home with Kids…Asia Citro, Author of 150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids, The Curious Kid’s Science Book, A Little Bit of Dirt, and the Zoey and Sassafras seri

4.  Hands Free Mama…Rachel Macy Stafford, author of Hands Free Mama, Hands Free Life, and Only Love Today…started this blog in 2010 and now has 98,000 followers on her Hands Free Revolution facebook page.

Her goal is to provide strategies that will allow for parents to be less distracted and more fully present in the moments spent with family.

5.  Hands On As We Grow...Jamie Reimer, uses the blog “Hands On As We Grow” to post simple “hands on” activities…such as crafts, art projects, gross motor activities, and fine motor activities…that are simple to put together for your kids.


6.  hello, Wonderful…Agnes Hsuan, author of My Color is Rainbowoffers the best ideas to create, celebrate, and enjoy those magical everyday moments and create memories  with your kids, saving you hours of sorting through endless websites and inspiration boards.

7.  Meri Cherry…Meri Cherry is a reggio inspired atelierista and private art teacher in Los Angeles with nearly twenty years experience. she believes that creativity is not only fun, but also a great source of self-confidence. Her mission is to inspire both the  young and the old to be creative, think outside the box, and go for their dreams.


8.  Picklebums…This blog was started in 2005 by a former early childhood teacher from Victoria, Australia.

9.  Pink Stripey Socks…Leslie Manlapig, co-author of STEAM Kids- 50+ Science, Tech, Engineering, Art, and Math Activities for kidsSTEAM Kids Christmas- 25 Activities for kids, and Happy Handmade, is a minimalist who believes that crafts can encourage others.

10.  Red Ted Art…Maggy Woodley, author of Red Ted Art: Cute and Easy Crafts for Kids..is a blogger who loves all things crafty  and desires to share easy, do-able, and fun craft ideas and how-tos for all ages.

11. Simple as That Blog…Rebecca, a professional photographer and mother of four, from Alberta, Canada, has been sharing easy-to-follow crafts and recipes, organization tips, mom-hacks that will help your home and your life run a little more smoothly, photography tutorials, and ways to save your family’s story since founding this site in 2005

She enjoys putting together simple DIY projects using easy-to-find materials and a few basic supplies, and believes that…

Fewer elaborate projects means easier-to-organize supplies.
Fewer distractions means more focused attention for my kids.
Fewer to-do’s and less stress means more joy in the everyday.


12.  The Art Pantry…The Art Pantry is a design studio specializing in children’s creative play spaces, founded by Megan Schiller. Her mission is to design organized and functional spaces dedicated to creativity and quality art supplies in order to foster children’s independence, investigation, and creative play.

Satisfying the Sweet Tooth

Holiday Baking-Gingerbread

Hard to believe that National Gingerbread Day is celebrated in June instead of December, but since today is National Gingerbread Day, I thought that this would be a great day to re-publish this previous post about Torunskie pierniki.

Torun, Polanda medieval city on the banks of the Vistula River, and one of the few cities in Poland that escaped the devastating bombings of World War II, is known as the birthplace of gingerbread cookies…


Muzeum Piernika, the Museum of Torun Gingerbread, is the former factory of Gustav Weese, a family who has baked pierniki there for generations…and the only museum dedicated to gingerbread in Europe.

Visitors to the museum take part in an interactive show which teaches them how the dough was made in theMiddle Ages…how to make their own gingerbread using traditional baking molds…and how flour is produced using millstones.

Great pierniki are all about the proper blend of spices: Too much ginger or pepper will make the cookies too spicy. Too much cinnamon will make them too sweet.

Training for the job of gingerbread master was once comparable to the training as a sommelier….but here is a gingerbread recipe well worth making in months other than December.

Gingerbread

Cream together…3/4C softened butter…1-1/2C brown sugar.

Add…1C molasses…2 eggs…1Tbsp maple extract.

Sift together…6C flour…1tsp salt…1/2tsp of each of the following—allspice, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon

Add the flour mixture in three batches, beating until just combined after each addition.

  • Wrap the dough in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least two hours.
  • Remove the dough from the fridge. Divide the dough in half once dough is soft enough to roll but still firm. Roll out each half between two sheets of plastic wrap.
  • Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a baking mat. Bake 5min, Remove with a spatula. Let cool completely.
  • Cream together 2 pounds powdered sugar, 1/3C milk,, 2 egg whites
  • Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a fine tip or a squirt bottle.
  • Decorate the cookies with miscellaneous candies, sprinkles, and so forth…using icing as an accent and as glue to hold on the candies.
  •  Allow icing to set before transporting or serving.

Gingerbread has a long history and has become part of Christmas traditions throughout the world.

in 992 gingerbread was brought to Europe by the Armenian monk Gregory of Nicopolis who had left Nicopolis Pompeii, to live in France. He taught gingerbread baking to French Christians.

 in the 13th century, gingerbread was brought to Sweden by German immigrants. Early references from the Vadstena Abbey show how Swedish nuns baked gingerbread to ease indigestion.

During the 17th century gingerbread was sold in monasteries, pharmacies, and town square farmers’ markets for medicinal properties.

During the 18th century, the town of Market Drayton in Shropshire, England became known for its gingerbread and started displaying gingerbread on welcome signs to their town.

Although ginger had been stocked in high street businesses there since the 1640, the first record of gingerbread being baked in the town was not until 1793.

Gingerbread and Childhood Memories


Gingerbread men have played an important role in childhood culture and memories for centuries.

Almost everyone remembers the fairy tale about a gingerbread man who comes to life, outruns an elderly couple, and is finally devoured by a fox.

In 1892, Tchaikovsky wrote his famous ballet The Nutcracker, portraying the Nutcracker leading an army of gingerbread men in a battle against the Mouse King and his fellows.
In 1945 the game Candy Land was released…starring “The Gingerbread People” as the main characters.
Shrek movies include a talking gingerbread man named Gingy in the cast.

Gingerbread Around the World


In England, gingerbread is commonly known as Parkin, a soft gingerbread cake made with oatmeal and black treacle. Molasses was first used by apothecaries to make the medicine theriaca, from which name the word “treacle”…so treacle is actually molasses.

Parkin was the food of the poor. Ovens were rare in the houses of the poor, and so they cooked these cakes on griddles or bakestones over an open fire. Oats were also the staple grain for the poor, even though thought of as animal feed for the upper classes.

Parkin is traditionally eaten on Guy Fawkes Night or Bonfire Night, November 5th…a celebration of the great failure of Guy Fawkes to blow up the Houses on Parliament in 1605.

Parkin

Preheat oven to 275.
Stir together…

  • 1-1/4C oatmeal
  • 3/4C flour
  • 1/2C brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Warm the following ingredients in a saucepan just long enough to melt the butter…

  • 1/3C syrup
  • 1/2C butter
  • 3/4C milk
  • 1/3C molasses

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients.
Pour in the milk mixture.
Mix ingredients together with a spoon until fully incorporated.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.
Bake for 1 1/2 hours.
Remove from the oven. Let cool fully on a wire rack.
Wrap the parkin in paper and place in a tin with a lid for a couple of days

 

In France…Pain d’épices, a honey spice cake and a speciality of the Alsace region, has been around for hundreds of years.

Traditional recipes for pain d’épices call for mixing honey and rye flour into a pâte-mère (mother dough) and leaving the dough in a wooden trough to rest in a cool place for months.

Traditional pain d’épices is sweetened entirely with honey, and the loaves can often be purchased from French honey merchants.

Julia Child’s Recipe for Pain d’épices

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prep springform or loaf pan. 
Beat together…1¼C honey…1C brown sugar…¾C boiling water.
Add 1Tbsp baking soda…½ tsp fine sea salt.
Gradually add 3½C flour. 
Beat 2min more on medium speed.
Reduce the speed on the mixer to slow.


Add

  • ¾C finely chopped almonds
  • 1tsp almond extract
  • ¼C dark rum
  • ½tsp cinnamon
  • ½tsp cloves
  • ½tsp ginger
  • ½tsp nutmeg
  •  ¼tsp ground white pepper
  • 2tsp grated fresh orange or lemon peel
  • ½C chopped dried apricots
  • ½C golden raisins

 

Mix until everything is well incorporated. Scrape the batter into the pan. Bake one hour. Let cool before wrapping well in plastic.

Note…Julia recommends waiting at least a day or more before serving. For the best flavor and texture, age the cake for two weeks in the refrigerator or one month in the freezer.


In Germany gingerbread is often called Lebkuchen and sold at carnivals and street markets, especially Christkindlmarkts.
As early as 1296 Lebkuchen had been invented by monks in Franconia, Germany…and Lebkuchen bakeries were started in towns like Ulm and Nürnberg.

Today Nürnberg is especially famous for the export of Nürnberger Lebkuchen. Lebkuchen is sometimes packaged in richly decorated tins, chests, and boxes, which have become nostalgic collector items.

In addition to “ordinary” Lebkuchen, three more types of Lebkuchen are…

  • Hexenhäuschen (“witch houses”)…made popular because of the fairy tales about Hansel and Gretel.
  • Honigkuchenpferd (“honey cake horse”)….the closest German equivalent of the gingerbread man.
  • Lebkuchenherzen (“Lebkuchen hearts”), cut-out hearts usually inscribed with icing and sold at German regional fairs and Christmas markets, and Oktoberfest.

German Lebkuchen

  1. Whisk together 3/4C flour…1/2tsp baking powder…1/4tsp salt…1/2tsp cinnamon…1/2tsp ginger…1/2tsp ground cloves.
  2. Add…3 ounces crumbled almond paste…1/3 cup apricot jam…3 large eggs…3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar.
  3. Blanche, toast, and then finely chop 3/4C blanched whole almonds…1/3C blanched hazelnuts. 
  4. Finely chop 1/3C candied orange peel, 1/3C candied lemon peel, 4 pitted Medjool dates.
  5. Add these to the batter.
  6. Transfer dough to an airtight container. Refrigerate overnight.
  7. To bake…Drop dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets, using a 1/4-cup scoop and spacing cookies 3″ apart. Place 3 almonds close together on top of each cookie. Bake at 325 until golden brown, about 14 minutes. Let cool completely on sheets on wire racks.
  8. To ice…Whisk together powdered sugar and milk. Brush over cooled cookies. Let stand until set.

Satisfying the Sweet Tooth

Holiday Baking—Candy

Before the Industrial Revolution in the late 1800s making candy was only done at home during the holidays or by professional candy makers in small specialized shops. Candy was very expensive and considered quite a luxury.

During and after the Industrial Revolution, candy became affordable and more readily available.

Competition became fierce, and large advertising campaigns were started. candy was often named after people such as…

  • Baby Ruth—Supposedly this candy bar was not named after the legendary baseball player after all….but for Ruth Cleveland, President Cleveland’s daughter.
  • Oh Henry!—The “Oh Henry! Bar” was originally named for Tom Henry, the owner of a candy factory in Kansas. He created this candy bar in 1919 and named it after himself…obviously…In 1920 the rights to the Tom Henry bar were bought, and the bar was renamed it the “Oh Henry!” for publicity purposes….O. Henry…
  • Tootsie Roll and Tootsie Pop—Leo Hirshfield named the product after his daughter, Clara, whom he called Tootsie.

Making candy involves boiling sugar with water or milk until the sugar dissolves and the sugar concentration of the mixture reaches the temperature needed for the type of candy that you are making.

The texture and type of candy depends on the ingredients and sugar concentration..lin other words, how long the mixture is boiled.

There are several stages or temperature ranges that determine the type of candy made, including…

  •  1. Thread or syrup stage
  • 2. Soft ball or fudge stage
  • 3. Firm ball or soft caramel candy stage
  • 4. Hard ball or nougat stage
  • 5. Soft crack or salt water taffy stage
  • 6. Hard crack or toffee stage
  • 7. Clear liquid stage
  • 8. Brown liquid or liquid caramel stage
  • 9. Burnt sugar stage

 

 

1. Thread Stage—The thread or syrup stage is met when the candy thermometer reads 230°F.

Chocolate Caramels

Line 8″ square pan with foil. Grease the foil with butter.  In a large saucepan, bring the following ingredients to a boil…

  • 1C sugar
  • 3/4C light corn syrup
  • 2oz unsweetened chocolate chips

Stir until smooth. Add 1/2C heavy cream. Stir constantly until candy thermometer reads 234 degrees. Add another 1/2C cream. Return mixture to 234 degrees, stirring constantly. Add the remaining 1/2c cream. Cook until temperature reaches 248 degrees. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Let sit overnight. Lift candy out of the pan, using foil to lift. Remove foil. Cut into 1″ squares. Wrap individual pieces in waxed paper, twisting the ends.

 

 

2. Soft Ball—The soft ball or fudge stage is reached when the candy thermometer reads 235°F.

Pumpkin Seed Brittle

Bring the following to a boil…

  • 1C sugar
  • 1/2C water
  • Pinch fine sea salt

Cook until thermometer reads 238ºF.Remove from heat. Stir in 3/4C green pumpkin seeds with a wooden spoon. Stir 5min. Return pan to medium heat. Cook stirring constantly, 5 minutes. Pour hot mixture onto parchment paper covered surface. Cover with a second sheet of parchment paper. Roll mixture between two sheets as thinly as possible with rolling pin.  Let cool until firm. Break into pieces. Cool brittle completely Melt 3/4C bittersweet chocolate chips in microwave. Dip cooled brittle in chocolate. Sprinkle with 1/4C chopped pumpkin seeds and large-flake sea salt. Let cool until chocolate is firm.

 

 

3. Firm Ball—The firm ball or soft caramel candy stage is met when the candy thermometer reads 245 °F.

Caramels

Prepare 9×13. In a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat, combine…

  • 1C butter
  • 1# light brown sugar
  • 114oz sweetened condensed milk
  • 1C light corn syrup
  • 1 pinch salt

Cook until thermometer reads 245 degrees. Remove from heat. Add 1 1/2tsp vanilla. Pour mixture into the buttered pan. Let cool overnight. Remove from pan. Cut into squares. Wrap pieces in waxed paper.

 

 

4. Hard Ball-–The hard ball or nougat stage is reached when the candy thermometer reads 250 °F.

Coffee Caramels

Lightly grease and line bottom and sides of 9 x 13. In a large heavy saucepan, combine…

  •   2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely ground espresso powder
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups light corn syrup

Cook until mixture has reached a temperature of 250. Remove from heat. Stir in 1tsp vanilla and 1/2tsp sea salt. Pour mixture into prepared tray. Let sit overnight. Slice into 1 1/4″ squares. Wrap each piece in waxed paper.

Satisfying the Sweet Tooth

Holiday Desserts—Cakes

When I was growing up, my Mom made wedding cakes for almost every wedding in Notth Mississippi…our house constantly smelled like powdered sugar…the whirr of a KitchenAid mixer could be heard constantly…and there were always cake….My Dad and I used to race for the layer of cake that she levelled off the top of the cake before she began decorating her latest masterpiece…

CAKE POPS

Wish that I had known back then that mixing leftover crumbs with icing or chocolate and forming them into small spheres and sticking the balls onto lollipop sticks and coating them with icing or chocolate would become a multi-million dollar business and a true art form…Cake pops have become so popular because they are portable, easy to eat, and can be made in in all sorts of flavors and shapes…even Starbucks sells them…(for how much per cake pop(?!))…The cake pop craze began in 2008 when Angie Dudley posted a photo of  cupcake pops on her blog, Bakerella.Since that infamous blog post, she has written ten books—including Cake Pops: Tips, Tricks, and Recipes for More Than 40 Irresistible Mini Treats and Cake Pops Kit: New Projects and Old Favorites.You may also see video tutorials with Angie Dudley on her sister website, cake pop.com.Cake Pops: Tips, Tricks, and Recipes for More Than 40 Irresistible Mini Treats has become a New York Times best-selling book and has been printed in four languages. She has also worked with international corporations, including Target and Disney, and appeared on the Martha Stewart television show.

  1.  Another chef who has written a book about cake pops is Kris Galicia Brown…and Goods by K Creative website…
  2. Kris Galicia Brown is featured on this Crafty “Party Perfect Cake Pops” class…
  3. This Craftsy class is also featured on the Wilton website as part of an “educational” program that will teach you how to…
  4. Lesson 1: Learn how to access your FREE Craftsy mini-class.
  5. Lesson 2: Learn how to make, form and chill your cake pop base to create perfect spheres, and get inside tips.
  6. Lesson 3: Learn the trick to getting a smooth, even coating and the proper technique for dipping and decorating with sprinkles or sparkling sugar. Plus, learn to make multi-color pops with marbled, with a drizzled finish.
  7. Lesson 4: Learn to embellish cake pops with brush embroidery, hand painting, piping, and metallics. Create piped grass, leaves and stems, topped with premade 3-D flowers. Pipe scrolls and textured animal prints.
  8. Lesson 5: Learn to how to thin, shape and apply candy clay, aka modeling chocolate, petals around a pop to create beautiful, show-stopping blooms, flowers and ombré ruffles.

A third source is Crazy for Cake Pops: 50 All-New Delicious and Adorable Creations by Molly Bakes…(see her website here…Molly Bakes)…

How to Make Cake Cups—Any Flavor…Prepare and bake one package cake mix according to package directions, using greased 9×13. Cool completely on a wire rack.Remove the crusts of the cake with a sharp kitchen knife. Crumble the cake with your hands, as finely as possible, into a large mixing bowlMix 3/4C frosting into cake crumbs, one tablespoon at a time until you have a fudge-like texture.The mixture is ready whenever you squeeze a little of the mixture in your palm and it doesn’t crumble when squeezed in the palm of your hand.Adding too much frosting will make the cake balls simply fall off the stick when you dip them.

Place the mixture in a huge ziploc bag.Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Break off a ping pong ball-sized piece of the mixture.Roll into a ball with your palms. Place each ball on a tray lined with waxed paper. Refrigerate twenty minutes.

Insert a lollipop stick in each cake ball.Melt candy melts in microwaveDip each cake ball fully into the melted candy, allowing excess to drip off. Gently tap the cake pop over the bowl to remove any excess candy. Insert cake pops into a styrofoam block to stand until set.

Caramel Cake

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Prepare three 8″ round cake pans.

Cream together…

  • 1C butter
  • 2½C sugar
  • Add…
  • 2tsp vanilla
  • 4 eggs

Sift together…

  • 3¼C flour
  • 1Tbsp baking powder
  • ½tsp salt

Alternate between adding the flour mixture and 1¼C milk to batter.Divide batter between prepared pans.Bake 30 minutes.Let cool on a rack for 10 minutes.Invert cakes onto a cooling rack. Let cool completely while preparing frosting…

To make the frosting……Caramel Frosting—Microwave the following ingredients in microwave-safe bowl four minutes, stopping to stir at one-minute intervals….

  •  ½C butter
  • 2C dark brown sugar
  • 1/2C evaporated milk

Let mixture cool 15 minutes. Place in mixer. Add…

  • 6C powdered sugar
  • ½C softened butter

Mix until light and fluffy.

To frost the cake…Brush off crumb layer from sides and top of cake. Place one cake layer on a plate or cake stand. Spread 1 1/2 cups frosting over. Top with second layer. Spread frosting over top and sides. Chill at least 1 hour.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peppermint Buttercream Frosting

Prep…Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 muffin tins with cupcake liners.

Make the cupcakes…2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar, 3/4 cup cocoa powder, 2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt, 3/4 cup buttermilk, 3/4 cup vegetable oil, 2 egg, 1 tsp vanilla, 3/4 cup hot coffee…Combine dry ingredients…flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Combine “wet” ingredients… buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Slowly pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. Pour the hot coffee into the batter. Mix until just combined. Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 of the way full. Bake for about 18 minutes. Remove cupcakes from oven. Let cool completely before frosting.

Make the Peppermint Buttercream frosting… 1C butter, 4C powdered sugar, 1 tsp vanilla , 3/4tsp peppermint extract, 10 peppermint candies, crushed, pinch salt…Cream butter. Add powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, until thoroughly combined. Add vanilla, peppermint extract, and a pinch of salt. Sprinkle cupcakes with crushed peppermint candies just before serving.

 

COCONUT CAKE

Coconut is one of those foods that people either love or hate…yet most Southern chefs consider coconut cake as a necessity at every single holiday…especially the two holidays when people are most likely to attend church—Easter and Christmas.

The word “coconut” means “head” or “skull” in the 16th-century Portuguese and Spanish. The coconut fruit is named this because of the three indentations on the coconut shell that resemble facial features.Coconuts are kind of like shrimp….there can be a thousand and one ways to use them…making a list of different ways coconut can be used would be like the uses for shrimp named in the movie Forest Gump.

  •  Coconut butter refers to solidified coconut or certain specialty products, such as lotions and creams, made of coconut milk solids or puréed coconut meat and oil.
  •  Coconut chips are often sold in the tourist regions of Hawaii and the Caribbean.
  • Coconut flour has been developed for use in baking.
  • Coconut meat, the white, fleshy part of the seed is often used fresh or dried in cooking, especially in confections and desserts such as macaroons. Dried coconut is often used as the filling for chocolate bars such as Mounds and Almond Joy.
  • Coconut milk is made by by pressing grated coconut or passing hot water or milk through grated coconut in order to extract the juice. Coconut milk is frequently added to curries and other savory dishes.
  • Coconut oil is commonly used in cooking.can be found in liquid form and used like you would use any other type of vegetable oil… or in solid form and used like you would use butter or lard.
  • Coconut seed provide oil for frying, cooking, and making margarine.
  • Coconut vinegar can be made by allowing coconut water to ferment.
  • Coconut water is a common beverage in the tropics that consists of water and developing coconut meat. Coconut water contains 19 calories per 100-gram serving and contains no significant amounts of essentials nutrients…even though marketed as a sports drink.

Coconuts can be found growing in the states of Hawaii and Florida…as well as Texas and California even though trees often are killed or fail to produce edible fruit because of extended periods of time in the winter when temperatures stay below 50 °F.

  1. Coconut Cake

Preheat oven to 350. Pull out a 10″ tube pan with removable bottom. Original recipe said not to grease your pan, but I am in the habit of always greasing the pan whenever I am baking.

In the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed, beat together…

  • 14 large eggs
  • 1/2C warm water

Beat until foamy. Then add…

  • 1/2tsp salt
  • 1 1/2tsp cream of tartar
  • 2tsp vanilla

Beat until soft peaks form. Increase speed to medium-high. Slowly add 1 1/2C superfine sugar. Beat until stiff but not dry.

Sift together…

  • 1C flour
  • 3/4C sugar

Gradually add dry ingredients to mixing bowl. Pour batter into pan. Smooth top with an offset spatula. Run a knife through batter to release air bubbles. Bake for 40min. Let cake cool for about an hour before frosting. Frost cake with Seven-Minute Frosting. (Recipe below).  Top with 4C shredded coconut.

Seven-Minute Frosting

In the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer set over a saucepan of simmering water, combine…

  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1 1/4C sugar
  • 5Tbsp cold water
  • 1/4tsp cream of tartar

Cook over medium heat, whisking frequently, for 5 minutes. Attach the bowl to a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the mixture on high speed for 7 minutes. Add 1tsp vanilla

Devil’s Food Cake

Devil’s Food Cake…a symbol of the decadence of sin in which evil, fallen angels may tempt people to indulge…or simply eat five pieces of cake at one sitting.

One famous Devil’s Food Cake recipe is the Wellesley Fudge Cake, named after Wellesley College, the very prim-and-proper college featured in the movie Mona Lisa Smile.

In 1876, Wellesley College sent out a circular telling parents that a proper diet was crucial for proper learning…and Wellesley College would no longer accept students who “are broken down in health”… and did not pledge to neither buy or receive “any confectionery or eatables of any kind not provided for them by the College.”

The pamphlet clearly stated that…“Pies, Lies, and Doughnuts should never have a place in Wellesley College”.Yet candy-making was an acceptable activity at the college, and the girls often stayed up late making candy—such as Wellesley Fudge—and talking about boys and other tabboo subjects.

In 1909, Baker’s Chocolates published a cookbook containing three different fudge recipes— named after Vassar, Smith, and Wellesley colleges…this publication eventually led to the creation of the Wellesley Fudge Cake—a deeply decadent chocolate cake topped with a slab of fudge frosting that was commonly served in tearooms surrounding the college.

What a temptating and delightfully sinful, delicious, moist, airy, rich chocolate layer cake… different from ordinary chocolate cakes because the cake traditionally uses…

  • –baking soda…to make the cake a deeper, darker mahogany color
  • –coffee…to enhance the chocolate flavor
  • –less egg than other chocolate cakes
  • –more chocolate than a regular chocolate cake
  • –unsweetened chocolate baking squares instead of cocoa powder

Wellesley Fudge Cake

Cake Ingredients…

    • 2 sticks butter
    • 2C sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 2 1/2C flour
    • 2tsp baking soda
    • 1tsp baking powder
    • 1/2tsp salt
    • 1C room-temp buttermilk
    •  1/2C cocoa powder
    • 3/4C hot water
    • 2tsp vanilla

Frosting Ingredients…

    • 1-1/2C brown sugar
    • 1/2C evaporated milk
    • 4Tbsp butter
    • 1/2tsp salt
    • 1/2C evaporated milk
    • 4Tbsp butter
    • 8oz. bittersweet chocolate chips
    • 1tsp vanilla
    • 3C powdered sugar

1. Prep…Preheat oven to 350. Prep two 8″ square baking pans. Line with parchment paper.

2. Make the cake…Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add flour mixture, alternating with buttermilk. Dissolve cocoa powder in hot water. Add cocoa mixture and 2tsp vanilla to batter.

3. Bake the cake…Pour batter into the prepared pans. Bake 30 minutes. Let cool completely.

4. Make the frosting…Stir together brown sugar, evaporated milk, butter, and salt. Cook in saucepan over medium heat for 5min. Reduce the heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Stir in evaporated milk and butter. Let mixture cool slightly. Stir in chocolate chips and vanilla. Whisk in powdered sugar.

5. Assemble and serve…Let both the cake and the frosting cool to room temperature. Stack cake layers with frosting between the layers. Spread remaining frosting evenly over the top and sides of the cake. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Lemon Cake

Preparing to Bake…Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 2 9″ round cake pans. Line bottoms with parchment paper. Butter the paper.

Making the Batter…Cream together…4 eggs…1tsp vanilla… 2tsp lemon zest…1Tbsp lemon juice…1 1/2C sugar. Sift together 2 1/4C flour…1Tbsp baking powder…1tsp salt. Add to batter.

Baking the Cake…Divide batter evenly between prepared pans. Bake 30min. Cool cakes in the pans for 10 minutes. Then invert the cakes onto a wire rack to cool completely. Place one cooled cake layer on a cake plate. Generously spread 1/3C lemon curd over the top. Add next layer of cake.

Make the Frosting: Whip 1 1/2C heavy whipping cream…3Tbsp sugar. Gently fold in 3Tbsp lemon curd. Frost the top and sides with the whipped lemon cream frosting. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Thanksgiving Day means so much more than watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade and football games and eating like the true Southerners many of us are.But so often we as parents and grandparents fail to teach our kids the true importance and symbolism of the Thanksgiving holiday.Perhaps the best way to remind our kids, as well as ourselves, of what Thanksgiving is really about this year would be to start new traditions that place the emphasis back on what Thanksgiving really means—things such as faith, family, and community—in fun, creative ways.One tradition that our family is going to start this year is our own “Sacher Tablecloth”

 The Sacher Tablecloth is a part of the legacy of the Sacher hotel in Vienna, birth place of “The Original Sacher-Torte.”

The story behind the Sachertorte…In 1832, Franz Sacher, had been working as the sixteen-year-old apprentice of the personal chef of Prince Wenzel von Metternich.

 A recipe for Sachertorte and more information about the cake can be found here on the website of the King Arthur Flour Company.

Prince Wenzel von Metternich requested that his chef create a special dessert for several important guests, but the head chef got sick and turned the task over to Franz Sacher instead.

The Sachertorte supposedly delighted Prince Metternich’s guests, but the dessert received no immediate further attention.

Eduard Sacher, the son of Franz Sacher, carried on his father’s culinary legacy and completed his own apprenticeship in Vienna with the Royal and Imperial Pastry Chef at the Demel bakery and chocolatier. During this time he perfected his father’s recipe and developed the torte into its current form.   In 1873 Eduard Sacher opened his first restaurant on Kärntner Straße. In 1876 Eduard Sacher established the Hotel Sacher.  In 1880 Eduard Sacher married Anna Fuchs, the daughter of a butcher.

Anna Sacher became known as the “grande dame” of the Vienna hospitality industry. She was well known for her constantly smoking cigars, her hobby of breeding French bulldogs, her commercial skills, and her eccentricity.    Anna Sacher established the Sacher into one of the finest hotels in the world and a favourite meeting place of celebrities, aristocracy, and diplomats. She reigned the roost for nearly forty years…from the year 1880 when she married into the Sacher family…until the year 1930 when she passed away while in her suite at the Sacher Hotel. Anna Sacher knew that the prominent guests that ate and visited the hotel were her best means of advertising for the Sacher Hotel and her own calling card to fame.

Famous guests that have dined or visited the hotel over the decades include Emperor Franz Joseph…King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson…Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip…Prince Rainier III of Monaco and Grace Kelly…President John F. Kennedy…Leonard Bernstein…Plácido Domingo, and John Lennon.

One evening after an evening meal held for a departing archduke, Anna Sacher sent her head waiter to get a fresh tablecloth. Anna Sacher invited her one hundred guests—including Archduke Franz Ferdinand…Crown Prince Rudolf…Archdukes Ferdinand, Karl Wilhelm, Ludwig Viktor, Karl Stephan, Leopold and Franz Salvator…King Milan and his son Alexander of Serbia…and Grand Duke Nikolajewitsch of Russia—to sign their names on the tablecloth. Soon she embroidered the names, washed out the ink, and hung the cloth on the wall of the restaurant for all to admire.

 Your own family also needs at least one such legendary Sacher tablecloth of its own…with the signatures of all the rulers(?!), queens, princes, and princesses in your own royal blood line to enjoy not only this Thanksgiving, but for who-knows-how-many-more Thanksgivings to come…and perhaps even hang on the wall of the dining room for all to admire.

So this year, encourage each of the kids, and the adult kids, at your Thanksgiving dinner to sign and date the tablecloth, using fabric markers…(explaining that this does not mean signing every real tablecloth that they see from that day forward)…

Honestly wish that I had started this thirty years when Kurt and I first got married so that our grandparents’ names and my Dad’s name were embroidered on the tablecloth also…

Sacher Torte

Prep: Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 9″ round cake pan with cooking spray and line with parchment. Spritz the parchment lightly as well.

Make the cake batter…Melt 1C bittersweet chocolate in microwave.Beat 8 eggs yolks.Add melted chocolate, 1/2C melted butter, 1tsp vanilla.Beat 8 egg whites, 1/8tsp salt until they begin to foam.Slowly add 3/4C sugar.Beat on high speed until whites hold a stiff peak but are still glossy.Add 1C King Arthur Unbleached Cake Flour Blend

Bake the cake…Pour the batter into the pan(s). Bake 45 minutes. Remove from oven. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Turn onto wire rack to cool completely. Be sure to peel off the parchment circle while the cake is still warm.

Fill the cake: Split the cake layer horizontally, using a long, sharp serrated knife. Strain 1/2C apricot jam through a fine sieve to remove any bits of fruit and make a smooth filling. Spread onto cake.

Make the glaze..Place the filled cake on a wire rack over a parchment lined baking sheet. Melt 1C bittersweet chocolate in the microwave. Add 1C boiling water. Pour glaze over the cake.

Torta Caprese

Torta caprese is a traditional flourless chocolate and almond or walnut cake that originated and is popular on the Italian island of Capri.

Torta caprese was first created by the hospitality industry of the island of Capri and is commonly served in tea rooms to tourists.Italian desserts are often known for being simple, yet elegant.

The only ingredients in Torta caprese are eggs, butter, chocolate, and almonds caprese actually replaces the ordinary and expected flour with ground almonds…giving the cake a unique taste and making it a great dessert for those who cannot eat gluten.

Torta caprese would make a sweet ending to any otherwise elaborate menu…especially served with a dusting of powdered sugar, whipped cream, and fresh raspberries.

Torta Caprese

1. Prep. Preheat oven to 325ºF. Butter 9″ springform pan. Line bottom of pan with a circle of parchment paper.

2. Make the batter.

—Grind 2c almonds… 6Tbsp sugar in food processor.
—Melt 8oz coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate…2 sticks butter in microwave.
—Beat 6 egg yolks with electric mixer for 5 minutes.
—Add…10Tbsp sugar…chocolate mixture…ground almonds.
—Beat 6 egg whites…1/4C sugar.until they form firm peaks.
—Fold egg whites into the chocolate mixture.

3. Bake the cake.—Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan. Bake for 1 1/2 hours. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove sides of the springform pan. Let cool completely before serving.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

16 Cooking Tips Just in Time for the Ucoming Holiday Baking Season

This time of year brings out the baker in me. The illsbury doughboy and I have an annual affair that ends at the same time that the Christmas tree is taken down.

Over our rhitty year relatinoshi, here are a few things that he has taught about baking a cake.

  1. Get an oven thermometer...It is important to always make sure your oven is heating at the correct temperature.  Even though your oven might say itself that it is at the right temperature, don’t trust it. If your oven isn’t at the right temperature, you might end up having a sunken, dry, or collapsed cake. Your best bet is to invest in an oven thermometer  and make sure that your oven isn’t telling you a lie.
  2. Consider whether you are using a glass or metal pan…Cakes baked in glass pans cook differently than cakes baked in versus metal bake differently. If using glass, lower your oven temperature by 25 degrees.
  3. Preheat your oven before you start mixing and prepping...It’s best if the oven is preheated for twenty to thirty minutes.
  4. Allow your ingredients to reach room temperature…Eggs, butter, milk, and any refrigerated ingredients should generally be used at room temperature. Cold ingredients could cause the batter to curdle.
  5. Prepare the pan…Make sure to properly grease and flour the pan before you add the batter. You may also want to try lining the bottom of your pan with parchment paper, especially when baking layer cakes.
  6. Take your time...When combining butter and sugar, take your time and cream them together for at least five minutes. This adds tiny air pockets to the batter and helps to ensure a lighter cake.
  7. Measure your dry ingredients exactly…Use a knife or other flat surface to level off dry ingredients in a measuring cup or spoon.
  8. Don’t skip the sifting...Sifting actually is important because doing this helps to add air and ensures that all dry ingredients are properly combined. If you don’t have a sifter, you can use a wire mesh strainer.
  9. Filling the pan…Generally, the cake batter should fill the pan by at least 1/2 and not more than 2/3, unless otherwise instructed.
  10. Bake the cake...Bake the cake in the middle of the oven.
  11. Do not open the oven door…Opening the oven door too many times while your cake is baking could lower the oven temperature. Wait until the cake is nearly finished baking before you open the door.
  12. See if the cake is done...Insert a dinner knife into the center of the cake. If the knife comes out clean, the cake is done…(we ALL knew that, right?)
  13. Let the cake cool properly…Remove the cake from the pan after allowing the cake to cool in the pan on a wire rack for five to ten minutes. Then invert it onto a plate or rack to remove it from the pan and allow it to cool completely.
  14. Wait to frost the cake…Allow the cake to cool completely before frosting. Even the slightest warmth from a cake can quickly turn your frosting or icing into a mess.
  15. Apply a crumb coat…First brush your completely cooled cake with a pastry brush (or your fingers if you don’t have one) to remove excess crumbs. Next apply a “crumb coat”—a very thin layer of frosting—to the cake. This helps seal in the crumbs. You also could make frosting the cake easier by refrigerating the cake for an hour after applying the crumb coat so that the crumb coat will harden slightly and really hold in the crumbs.
  16. Frost the cake neatly as possible…Start frosting at the top before finishing with the sides. Wipe the spatula clean each time you swipe frosting onto the cake. You may want to spread it on smoothly for a clean finish, or you may opt to swirl it decoratively around the cake.